More Industry Forecasts

Back in the time of glasnost, Soviet news announcers would proclaim, “And now for a daily roundup of attacks on statues of Lenin.” In the same spirit, I will sometimes link to articles about the future of publishing. Here’s one by Boris Kachka from last fall’s New York magazine.

“‘Media doesn’t matter, reviews don’t matter, blurbs don’t matter,’ says one powerful agent. Nobody knows where the readers are, or how to connect with them. Fifteen years ago, Philip Roth guessed there were at most 120,000 serious American readers — those who read every night — and that the number was dropping by half every decade. Others vehemently disagree. But who really knows? Focused consumer research is almost nonexistent in publishing.”

Here’s a humorous take by Steve Hely that appeared in the Rumpus last month.

And here’s some analysis from agent Richard Curtis.

“I have spent years advocating the abandonment of the consignment system. For one thing, it is a horrifying waste of paper and other resources. For another, it has forced all of us into negative, defensive, and ofttimes bizarre ways of speaking and thinking about books. Nobody talks about how many copies of a book were sold, but rather how many did not get returned. Royalty statements are designed to deceive by the omission of critical information. Returns data are buried in a column called ‘Cumulative Net Sales,’ and the concept of holding back royalties against returns is so inflammatory to authors that publishers have built their royalty statements around hiding that information.”

Curtis argues against huge author advances, and against books being fully returnable by bookstores to publishers. Read his piece all the way through, and you’ll find that it ends with a shocking revelation.
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